Monday, February 2, 2015

The Equalizer (2014)

viscerally entertaining film that ranks as one of 2014's very best, JohnnyTwoToes tells you why?

As a fan of the original late 1980's TV show, The Equalizer, I was curious how they were going to approach the feature film. Casting Denzel Washington was a smart move to start. The original role was played by Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a former CIA operative who has retired and taken an out an ad in the paper, "Odds against you? Need help? Call The Equalizer." Each week was a new person who needed help. 

In the film, McCall has become an associate at a Home Depot store called Home Mart. He leads a solitary life of work and life in his apartment. He can't sleep so he takes a tea bag and goes to the local 24 hour diner to read a book. He meets a local prostitute, Teri (beautifully played by Chloe Grace Moretz) and the two become friends but McCall knows she is in trouble. He is a smart man who always seems to know more than he lets on. When Teri is horribly beaten by her Russian handlers and ends up in the hospital, McCall decides enough is enough and proceeds to take the Russians out "Brick by brick. Body by body."

This is not your Daddy's Equalizer. If you are expecting that you will be disappointed. This is a hard hitting, gritty and involving film thanks to Antoine Fuqua's unflinching direction and a terrific script by Richard Wenk with some added help by the show's original creators Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. The script is crafted intelligently and has quite a number of memorable lines. It is also a complex film that weaves corrupt cops, Russian mobsters, and a smart villain, Teddy, suavely played by Martin Csokas. Teddy is also very smart and seems to enjoy his mano-y-mano sparring with McCall. Csokas plays Teddy as a quiet, well dressed man complete with a Hitler like haircut less the mustache, but is ALL business. He is slow to anger but when he loses his cool then you had better get out of his way. He is a violent psychopath and does not care who he kills. McCall also seems to regard Teddy as a worthy adversary and their scenes together are intense. 

The Equalizer is a lean, mean, viscerally entertaining film from start to finish. It is never boring, even though there are a few staples that come with a film of this type. McCall is helping one of his co-workers at Home Mart to lose enough weight to qualify for the security guard position at the Home Mart. This is slightly reminiscent of Washington's character in Man On Fire in which Creasy (Washington) help Dakota Fanning learn how to swim competitively. In The Equalizer they have made it an important part of the story, so it works. 

Washington and Csokas are first rate together and the supporting cast is effective, too. I did miss Stewart Copeland's theme song and score but Harry Gregson William's score is solid and worth purchasing. It develops McCall as a character as a man who has done things he is not proud of and even to this day it bothers him. He is a damaged man still lamenting the loss of his wife, but is trying to make himself a better man. Washington is good at relaying the anguish he feels for his past and the loss of his wife, so when he starts his revenge it is with great hesitation but resolved. 

The Equalizer is a great film, one of 2014's best and deservedly grossing over $192 million at the box office. Hugely entertaining, fun, smart, engaging and always involving. This is a violent film, has some bad language and is not for children, but adults will have a blast. I know I did. The Equalizer-**** our of 4.


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